This is Part 1 of “The Ultimate Power Forward” series, detailing several of the key components that made Karl Malone the greatest power forward to ever play the game. Today we’ll take a look at Karl Malone’s complete low-post repertoire.
Before looking at that and other components over the next several days (including face-up game/perimeter shooting, running the floor, defense, passing and pick&roll ability), a few of Malone’s basic yet elite abilities must be noted. Above all, Malone’s rare blend of size, agility, strength, explosiveness, and speed – combined with a competitive drive and superior work ethic are what really set him apart. I fully believe Malone could have remained the raw and relatively unskilled young player who entered the league and still averaged close to 20&10 simply from his relentlessness and raw physical gifts.
Looking past many of the baskets Malone scored at point-blank range due to establishing deep post position (partially due to his superior strength and partially due to Utah’s great cross-screen action as well as phenomenal post-entry/lob passing), here are the skill components of Karl Malone’s offensive arsenal in the low-post.
(Note: This encompasses much of what was listed in a previous post, but now includes custom video highlights to fully encapsulate Malone’s complete low-post repertoire.)
Left-block repertoire: Sweeping hook shot going middle, could roll into lane for over-hand baby-hook, roll into lane for under-hand scoop shot, pseudo-left-shoulder jump hook in which he kept both hands on the ball until it was above his shoulders, dribble-pound fade-away jumper off left-shoulder (middle) and right-shoulder (baseline), no-dribble half-turn fade-away.
Right-block repertoire: Pseudo-jump hook keeping both hands on ball and kissing it off the glass, right-shoulder fall-away off both left leg and right leg, and a very reliable and oft-used Jack Sikma face-up fall-away jumper.
The brilliance to all of these moves/shots are the way they complement each other. Malone liked to move into the lane for that little hook shot, but when defenders kept their arms high to challenge that – Malone developed an incredibly difficult scoop-shot to slip in beneath the defender’s outstretched arms. Malone shot a left-block fallaway going to the middle, but when you over-played that or brought help from the top, he would spin and shoot the baseline fallaway. When teams would aggressively dig down on the block as soon as Malone put the ball on the floor, Malone developed a quick half-turn fade-away he could shoot before the defense could react.
The more you look at a player like Dwight Howard who has struggled to develop much of an offensive repertoire beyond jump hooks (for awhile Dwight had a nice right-hand hook rolling into the lane), the more you appreciate Karl Malone’s skillset and work ethic to add one low-post move after another until he had a complete arsenal of moves that when combined with his superior physicality – made him virtually unguardable for opposing power forwards in the post.